Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King
"In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel. With little experience as a painter (though famed for his sculpture David), Michelangelo was reluctant to begin the massive project. Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the four extraordinary years Michelangelo spent laboring over the vast ceiling while the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. Battling against ill health, financial difficulties, domestic problems, the pope's impatience, and a bitter rivalry with the brilliant young painter Raphael, Michelangelo created scenes so beautiful that they are considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of all time. A panorama of illustrious figures converged around the creation of this magnificent work -- from the great Dutch scholar Erasmus to the young Martin Luther -- and Ross King skillfully weaves them through his compelling historical narrative, offering uncommon insight into the intersection of art and history."
As I was reading the book I couldn't help but think of my field trips to Rome & Florence with Saints Bible Institute. I remember seeing the Sistine Chapel, but I definitely didn't have a deep appreciation for it. I never truly even understood what a fresco was, let alone how extremely difficult they are to create. What I love best is how informative it is without feeling like you're reading a textbook. I took art history the semester after I came home from Italy, but didn't find it nearly as fascinating as this book. King does an excellent job of weaving lots of relevant history into the story of Michelangelo's project, while also explaining how impressive and talented so many of the artists of that time period truly were. I knew they were talented because they're famous (*duh*) - but didn't really understand what about their artwork make them famous.
For anyone with plans to travel to Italy I would strongly recommend this book. I'm definitely longing to return now just to take some time to appreciate the artwork a bit more. Has anyone read any of King's other books? I'm contemplating reading the one about Bruneschelli's Dome....
1. Also called buon fresco, true fresco. the art or technique of painting on a moist, plaster surface with colors ground up in water or a limewater mixture. Compare fresco secco.2. a picture or design so painted.